Weber State football hopes for second-week jump as it readies for UNI-Dome
“Not up to our standard” and “we expected to play better” were phrases said multiple times by linebacker Winston Reid, running back Damon Bankston and head coach Mickey Mental after Weber State put away Central Washington 35-10 in its season-opener.
But a three-touchdown win is on the ledger and the No. 12 Wildcats (1-0) now face a trip to No. 21 Northern Iowa (0-1).
There’s a common sentiment in college football that, at least for good or well-coached teams, teams show their best in-season improvements from Week 1 to Week 2.
Weber State is banking on it.
“I like where we’re at. I think we’re in good shape going into this week,” Mental said. “It’s a good opponent that does a lot of good things. They’re well-coached, they play complementary football, so it will be a good test for us. But I like where our heads are at. Guys are coming in, watching film, doing a lot of the little things that help fill that gap.”
WSU used a 21-point third quarter to put away Central Washington after spinning its wheels offensively in the first half.
“We just need to be consistent. We averaged 5.7 yards per play, so we’re about 2 yards off what we want to be. It’s big but not huge. We were never in rhythm in that first quarter,” Mental said. “So it was a learning moment for us to get better and I thought they responded well in the second half. So hopefully we’ll build on that second half.”
Weber State has played in nearly every dome in FCS football in the last 10 years and now it’s time for Northern Iowa’s UNI-Dome, home to the Panthers since 1976.
It’s a familiar thing for many players and for fans who tune into their games, but WSU’s road game at Northern Arizona last season was the first time Mental played or coached in a dome.
“This is a really good environment. Northern Iowa does a fantastic job, they’ve been good for a while now, the coach has done a great job building that,” Mental said. “With our guys having played in multiple domes, I don’t think it will be anything new. You still have to catch passes, tackle, it’s still football at the end of the day.
“The noise does bounce around a little bit better but we’ve played at Montana State and Montana. It doesn’t get much louder than that at our level.”
Expected starting defensive tackles Steven Bryant and Zeke Birch are progressing toward a return. Kaufusi Pakofe Jr. and Easton Payne remain starters on this week’s depth chart, backed up by Ben Beecher and Matt Herron.
Mental said he hopes to get Bryant and Birch reps this week. In the meantime, the group got a chance to get better.
“You can’t replicate playing in games, so getting reps under their belt that they haven’t had before is huge going into a game like this, so they’re not just thrown into the fire against a really good opponent,” Mental said. “It won’t be their first action. It was huge for all those guys.”